Jan. 1950: Explaining the Need for a New Clinic Building #ThrowbackThursday

mayobuildingdrawing1950In Rochester in 1950, with ambitious new clinic building plans about to get underway, two Mayo Clinic leaders discussed Mayo Clinic's future and the need for expansion. In connection with the announcement of the new building plans, Mayovox interviewed Dr. A.R. Barnes, Chairman of the Board of Governors of the Mayo Clinic, and Mr. H. J. Harwick, Chairman of the Board of Members of Mayo Association. Dr. Barnes' and Mr. Harwick's statements follow:

Dr. Barnes

It is generally agreed that a university may be defined as a repository for the accumulated knowledge of mankind.

By parallel, and with all due humility, I have always hoped that the Mayo Clinic, with its associated institutions, could claim to be one such repository for accumulated medical knowledge. This medical knowledge must be continuously enlivened by practice, must be transmitted from generation to generation of doctors by education, and must be enlarged and extended by research.

During the past 10 or more years, conditions have arisen within our institution, which have impaired its ability to bring its full resources to bear upon what must always be its primary objective—namely, the prompt, efficient care of those patients seeking the medical and surgical services of its staff, while simultaneously seeking to attain in fullest practical measure its important auxiliary objectives in the fields of graduate medical education, and research in medicine and its allied sciences.

Everyone in the Clinic can feel justly proud of the high level of confidence bestowed upon it by the public and the medical profession, with the result that patients have come to us in recent years in ever-increasing numbers.

Inadequate physical facilities have increased the effort required of the staff to care for the growing numbers of patients seeking their services. Although all in the institution have bent every effort with complete unselfishness to preserve the high standards of service, of which we are justly proud, nevertheless the results of this overload have been such as to cause increasing concern for the preservation of the fundamental ideals, tradition, and objectives of the institution.

It would be inaccurate, in my opinion, to forecast that the construction of the proposed new diagnostic unit will, in and of itself, be a solution to all of the problems of the institution.

I do believe, however, that the construction of these new facilities is a necessary pre-condition for full freedom of operation of the institution, and when combined with appropriate administrative policies of the Mayo Clinic, the Mayo Foundation, and the Mayo Association, will result in a full realization of the resources of the staff in the practice of the art as well as the science of medicine, the full capitalization of our great opportunities for the training of younger physicians, and a liberalization of conditions for those among us able and eager to conduct scientific investigations.

Factors such as these, combined with many others, were carefully weighed by members of the Board of Governors before they arrived at their unanimous decision to recommend construction of the new building.

Mr. Harwick

During my association with the Clinic, there have been three occasions upon which it became necessary for the governing board of the Clinic to make a grave decision regarding plant enlargement.

The first occasion was in 1910, when, after much study and with considerable apprehension, it was decided to build the red brick building occupied in 1914. The second came in 1924, when it became necessary to consider construction of what we now know as the 1928 Building. This decision also occasioned much apprehension on the part of the Board, the staff, and, indeed, the entire community.

Each of these decisions was made necessary because of the demand of the public for the professional services of the institution.

The Clinic has now reached another very grave decision. The patient load has increased to a point not only far beyond the expectations of those who planned the 1928 Building, but also well beyond the point where patients can be efficiently served with concurrent advantage to the great existing opportunities and resources in graduate medical education and research. Therefore, after several years of concentrated study by the Building Committee and the architects, a decision has now been reached to build a new Clinic building as rapidly as possible.

With the uncertainties ahead in medicine and the uncertainties ahead in the general economy, this decision has not been an easy one. However, no institution can stand still. It must go ahead or go back.

Capital invested in the plant, with due regard for the essential balance between research, education, and clinical practice, is essentially an investment in the present and future staffs, and particularly their professional resources brought to focus in the medical and surgical care of human beings afflicted with disease. Under any and all conditions, which may be ahead of us, it is an investment more adequately safeguarding the future of the Clinic than are securities or money in the bank.

As Dr. Mayo so aptly put it in the discussion preceding the decision: "This is fundamentally an investment in ourselves."

Each successive expansion of the Clinic at the time has imposed severe inroads upon the financial resources then available. Nevertheless, each successive step has found the institution better prepared. Although the current expansion involves by far the largest expenditure, I am happy to say that the outlay upon this occasion will be less, in proportion to the total funds available, than before.

The staff of the Clinic cannot stand solely upon the achievements of the past, great as they have been. This milestone marks an opportunity for the future to make a great and lasting contribution to the history of an ideal in medicine—the Mayo Clinic.

Alyssa Frank (@alyssafrank)

Alyssa Frank

Alyssa Frank is a Marketing Segment Manager at Mayo Clinic Laboratories. She leads marketing strategies for product management and specialty testing. Alyssa has worked at Mayo Clinic since 2015.